The end of the seemingly unending Ethio-Eritrean conflict


     Adal Isaw

     May 30, 2009


              In the absence of a tangible mitigating factor to bring peace between two conflicting states, the nature of hostility is understood by the dictates of common sense.   Hostility takes place perpetually in multiple fronts as long as one of the states in conflict has no commanding dominance on most of the aspects of the conflict in question.  Dominance is partly a quantifiable aspect, which incorporates resources of the many kinds of a state in conflict.  In other words, it is an ascribable trait that favors one state over the other, and, you’re not obliged to untangle complex studies at times, to figure out the side that stands to dominate between two states in dire conflict.  The caveat for this dictating common sense is this: the dominating side chooses its own time and means to end the seemingly unending hostility of the other side.


The Ethio-Eritrean conflict has morphed into perpetual hostility by the Eritrean side and it’s thus governed by the same aforementioned dictates of common sense.  At least for now, a tangible mitigating factor is absent and the state of perpetual hostility is likely to continue until Ethiopia chooses its own time and means to end the seemingly unending conflict.  To end the conflict, Ethiopia should have to have a commanding dominance, and, it is a great-life-saver that it does-with no ambiguity attached to it what so ever.


Over eighty million people strong, with the right and privilege to be protected by one of Africa’s elite Defense Forces that this world has known, Ethiopia is simply a force to reckon with in the Horn and beyond.  For example, the mere fact that the Ethiopian Defense Forces managed to stay for over two years in the uncharted terrains of what the rest of the world has come to know militarily uninhabitable, is in and itself a superior achievement that too few other forces may be able to duplicate.  While many forces were caught craven cold by the sheer prospect of having to go into Somalia for a pointed mission, it is the gallant Ethiopian Defense Forces that went without blinking an eye to perform in ways that gave Lesson Two in quasi-asymmetric wars-for students of military force management and its application.  Lesson One was taught during the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrean conflict, while the “impenetrable” zigzagging arrays of fortress of Shaebia were overrun by relentless Ethiopian Defense Forces.  This is one of the tangible and quantifiable aspects that give Ethiopia a commanding dominance over the one-man state of Eritrea.


The qualitative part of Ethiopia’s dominance emanates from its long-lived and traditionally held strong suits of, one, love for peaceful relations with its neighbors, two, the tradition that its peoples have to stand in unison to fend those with ill wills, three, the exemplary tolerance that it has- to keep all religions harmonious, and four, its ability to reproduce gallant defenders whose fervor is noticed in the annals of world history.  In contrast, the one-man state of Eritrea is feeble for having the opposite trait of, one, a quarrelsome behavior with ill wills to all of its neighbors, two, the colonial tradition that it espouses to fragment the same people by deprecating and denigrating its long-held authentic background, three, its utter intolerance to believers of specific faith for political reasons, and four, its inability to reproduce willing souls to carry on its tyrannical and undemocratic endeavor.


Keep in mind that all of Ethiopia’s strongest suits come more so from its devout citizens than it is from its potent arsenals.  As a revered nation known for its tenacity to stay sovereign and free, Ethiopia’s children have made it a tradition to stand in unison to fend those with ill wills against their country.  More than anything else, what makes Ethiopia exceptionally superior relative to Shaebia is this very tradition-the fervor that its children have kept for history to record and for its enemies to take notice.  This very tradition even still lives with our numerous Eritrean cousins for whom the opportunity to manifest it overtly is being awaited patiently.  Ethiopia still has its Zeray Deres in Asmara, I surmise, and time will reveal him sooner than expected.


These strong suits of Ethiopia, as some have suggested before, should have been ample enough an attribute to end the conflict forcefully in its totality.  However, Ethiopia chose to pursue the peace route- right after it bloodied Shaebia’s nose and after weighing the remaining issues of conflict as amenable to a resolve through dialogue.  Although the conflict is not showing any inaction to this date, what is apparent is the one-man state’s disinclination to engage the Ethiopian Defense Forces directly for it has learnt that its life is on the balance.  As a result, the conflict has become akin to an active volcano- the trigger of whose pop-out-time is in check by Ethiopia.   


     A great deal amount of time has lapsed since we had to act directly against Shaebia’s blatant aggression.  Our restraint to Shaebia’s constant provocation might have worth every second of its time-for there is the possibility that the one-man state may go down under its own weight of foul play.  And then again, there is also the possibility that the one-man state may get the window of opportunity to behave more dangerously as time lapses and also as the sworn enemies of Ethiopia abets his region wide destabilizing wrongdoings.  It is this aspect of the equation that we should consider heavily while strategizing to end the seemingly unending conflict.


The opening of Eritrea’s borders to al-Shebaab and al-Quaeda with the help of traditionally hostile states such as Egypt, Libya, and others makes the threat imminent.  This selective camaraderie of state and non-state actors are willing partners to destabilize the Horn in general and Ethiopia in particular.  The common interest that’s tying the bolt of this relationship between these state and non-state actors is an agenda whose bases is engrained in eccentric body politics and shows how the Ethio-Eritrean conflict has partly morphed into adulterated religious politics.


     Adulterated religious politics is an international security issue for which Ethiopia can garner support in plenty with some diplomatic effort.  The international community is aware that Ethiopia cannot bear the sole responsibility of ridding a region from the venom of adulterated religious politics. The issue is thus merely a collective international security interest in need of a collective action by the international community and Ethiopia will not and should not be a lone player. 


Any inaction or passiveness by the so called Western states in dealing with this destabilizing imminent threat will prove costly.  If the one-man state of Eritrea continues to harbor, train, and support the progenies of al-Quaeda unabated, the dangers posed from attacks concocted in Eritrea can potentially be higher for both the U.S. and Europe.   After all, it’s highly likely that the worst and sophisticated terrorist attacks with enormous damages are to be set aside by al-Quaeda and friends for the two power centers in the world.  Keep in mind that these two power centers are made of highly structured societies where damage on a single bridge may bring lasting economic and security woes.  Deductively and knowing how both Europe and the U.S. view their respective national interest, lamenting from becoming a dependable partner with Ethiopia to keep a region from being infested with the likes of al-Quaeda and al-Shebaab will not be an option.


In the struggle to rid our region from adulterated religious politics, Ethiopia is thus strongly footed to have the support of the international community while the one-man state of Eritrea gets its support overtly and covertly from al-Quaeda, al-Shebaab, Egypt, Libya, and others.   The one-man state will be forced to play hide and seek while Ethiopia continues developing itself with confidence to act resolutely if the adulterated religious politics becomes unbearable to the everyday life of its peoples.


It’s therefore highly likely that the seemingly unending Ethio-Eritrean conflict would come to an end, in part, by the collective and seemingly inevitable will of the international community- to rid our volatile region from the effects of adulterated religious politics for which the one-man state of Eritrea is the single most important carrier.  If and if Shaebia becomes willing to curb itself from supporting, abetting, and involving the aforementioned destabilizing forces in our region and beyond, it will still be faced with two major issues that may help cease its existence; one, its unwillingness to resolve the border conflict through dialogue, and two, its utter undemocratic and quarrelsome nature that has become more profound by the day.


Ethiopia has made it clear that the border issue should not necessitate a war and has shown its unambiguous interest to sit down for bilateral or multilateral talk to resolve the conflict.  It’s the one-man state that has refused the route to peace through dialogue to pursue perpetual hostility directed on Ethiopia from multiple fronts.  If Shaebia chooses to spend forty percent of its GDP to forcefully conscript men and women to engage Ethiopia in a war of its choosing, then, the end of the one-man state will become inevitable for Ethiopia is ascribed with the commanding trait of dominance to end the seemingly unending conflict for the better.


If Shaebia continues to behave shy in seeing the Ethiopian Defense Forces directly on the eye, then, it will be faced with indignant Eritreans calling it a day to say no to its tyranny.  Either way, the end of the seemingly unending Ethio-Eritrean conflict will come as a result of Ethiopia choosing its own time and means, and or, as a result of the accretion of  indignant conditions in Eritrea accompanied by the international community’s detest to the terrorist abettor one-man state of Isayas Afewerki.